One of the great pop anthems of the sixties was Aretha Franklin's rendering of "Respect." Most anyone raised in that decade can sing along when it comes on the radio, "R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Find out what it means to me . . . " It was written by the great Otis Redding, who died much too young.
The song popped into my head today as I was reading an account of the current dispute between our president and the widow of La David Johnson --one of the soldiers killed last week in Niger.
I don't know what happened in that phone call. Some of it seems to boil down to a he said, she said, debate. I really don't have the information I would need to determine the truth of the matter. But I do know this, from a biblical perspective, widows are supposed to be treated with respect. Most especially those who have been widowed by acts of war or violence. In the many laws of Judaism, widows are often singled out for special care and attention. But often in the biblical narrative they were neglected or worse. And when that happened the prophets would rail against their contemporaries reminding them of their obligations. "Learn to good," writes Isaiah, "Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow." (1:17)
I guess that's what I'm doing here. I'm pleading for the widow. Indeed for all widows, especially those widowed by warfare or violence. And widowers too, for that matter. They deserve our respect. They deserve our love and care. They deserve to be treated as we would want to be treated in a time of great grief.
This is not a political statement. This isn't about one party or the other. It's not even about the president. This is about basic decency. This is about respect, something that seems to be in low supply these days, not just in Washington, but all across this land of ours. Respect for the fallen, respect for their families. Respect for one another as fellow human beings. That's always
a good place to start in any conversation. Always a good place to start if we want to move towards a more civil society.